CSEA members are dedicated to service. Whether it’s serving the students of California to ensure they have the resources they need to learn, supporting the community by volunteering for charitable efforts, or rallying to help one of our own in need, classified employees lead with their hearts.
February is CSEA Have-a-Heart Month, when our union celebrates the generous efforts our members undertake in their communities and the continued outpouring of support for fellow members facing hard times. In past years, we’ve spotlighted a long list of fundraisers, clothing drives and relief efforts led by CSEA members in communities throughout California. When there is a need in their chapter, school or community, CSEA members are the first to volunteer to help.
“Our members are so generous with their time and eager to help when there is a need,” Association President Ben Valdepeña said. “Your commitment to improving the quality of life for our members, students and communities inspires me every day. Please know that while CSEA acknowledges these efforts during Have-a-Heart Month in February, I am humbled every day by the generosity displayed by the many members of our CSEA Family."
Art de la Cruz, a member of Glendale Chapter 3 and the Communications Committee, said he finds it inspiring to see fellow members working hard to help others. De la Cruz said that CSEA members provide vital assistance to school districts and communities through their everyday work, and their dedication to service doesn’t end there.
“I’m passionate about service. I enjoy that I get to share in the spirit of volunteering through my work with CSEA,” he said. “Whenever we stand shoulder to shoulder to serve others, it gives us an opportunity to learn about our friends and neighbors in our community and develop more empathy about the lives we share.”
Eliana Padilla, member of Placentia-Yorba Linda Chapter 293, said that making a difference in the community speaks to her as a union member and a young person. Padilla, a member of the CalGen Task Force, said like so many CSEA members, she cares about her community and wants to make a positive impact on the lives of others—even if it’s only one person. She’s proud to belong to a union that shares those values.
“I feel fortunate to be part of an organization that prides itself on being active in the community. We are making a difference in people’s lives,” Padilla said. “Community is very important to me. It is an extension of my immediate family. We share our accomplishments, our happy and sad moments, and we look out for one another.”
While members have always been active in their communities, it took disaster to spotlight just how dedicated we are to our union brothers and sisters. In 1986, Northern California was inundated with rain, causing waterways to swell until levees burst. Then-Association President Dorothy Bjork led CSEA’s first disaster relief effort to help scores of members recover, stating proudly that “we are family.” Two 22-foot truck trailers were filled to the brim with donations from CSEA members and delivered to those in need.
“It was truly a demonstration of the generosity and concern of CSEA’s members, officers and staff for those in need of assistance,” Bjork said at the time.
It was in this spirit that the Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund was formed, to help members who have suffered from disaster or other hardship when they need it most. The fund is comprised completely of member and staff donations—no dues money is used to support the assistance fund. Every year, CSEA members who suffer from fire, floods and other unforeseen tragedy receive financial assistance from the union to help get them through tough times.
“With my CSEA family, I’m never alone. I know that if I have an issue, no matter the size, that someone will be there to listen and help however they can,” Padilla said. “It makes me feel good in knowing that I belong to an organization with caring people who don’t think twice about helping others who desperately need it.”
Last year, 57 members were helped through difficult times by their union through the Assistance Fund. Audrey Martin, a member of Lake County Chapter 228, received $1,000 when her home was ravaged by fire. She was extremely grateful for the help from her CSEA family.
“It is people like you who have made such a horrible event a little more bearable,” Martin said. “I will always be grateful for your kindness and patience.”
Each February CSEA members make an effort to replenish the Assistance Fund. Some chapter members vote to take a certain amount out of their general fund. Others hold fundraisers like bake sales or bingo tournaments. Even passing a hat at chapter meetings can help the fund. And you can always make an individual donation. How can you help?
Please send your donation to:
Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund
2045 Lundy Avenue
San Jose, CA 95131
Call CSEA Member Benefits
866-ITS-CSEA (866-487-2732) or 800-632-2128, ext. 1262
Download Assistance Fund Payroll Deduction Form
Honor a fellow CSEA member or someone else you care about with a memorial/honorary gift to the Assistance Fund. Fill out the online form.
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Dorothy Bjork, Association President from 1984 to 1986, adopted the theme “We are Family.”
Bjork led the union’s first disaster relief effort, which helped scores of members recover from devastating floods in Northern California. Today, her legacy lives on, as CSEA members’ donations and volunteer efforts help hundreds of other members recover from natural disasters and personal crises.